On a recent vacation to the Portuguese island of Madeira, I signed up for a Food on Foot walking food tour of the beautiful port city of Funchal. It was a fantastic excursion, and not only did I get to sample some amazing foods and drinks, but I learned a lot about the history and customs of this tiny island.
One of the stops on the tour specializes in carne vinha d’alhos, a garlic and wine marinated pork dish traditionally served only on Christmas. I slightly modified this easy recipe and served it alongside the signature Madeiran bolo de caco bread. It was just as good as it had been on tour, and so good that I think I’ll be having a Madeiran Christmas dinner pretty often!
Madeiran Carne Vinha d’Alhos (Pork Marinated in Garlic and Wine)
2 pounds total pork loin and/or pork shoulder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup red wine vinegar
10 garlic cloves, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons cooking oil
1-2 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
Trim most of the fat and dice the pork into one-inch cubes, then toss with the salt to season. Whisk together the remaining ingredients to make the marinade.
Combine the pork and the marinade in a glass or ceramic bowl and tightly cover. Place in the refrigerator for up to four days.
On cooking day, heat about a tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet until shimmering. Pour off the marinade and cook the pork in small batches, stirring frequently, until nicely browned on all sides and fully cooked. Optional: top with chopped parsley.
Serve with potatoes, rice, or crusty bread, and pairs with either white or red wine.
Step by Step Details
This dish is typically made with pork loin, but I wanted to see if a more marbled cut would work, so I used pork shoulder as well.
The combination of both cuts worked great, but either one on its own would be fine, too. Don’t overthink it: I already did that for you. Just use whatever you have on hand or can easily obtain.
Trim most of the fat (more than I trimmed here) and dice the pork into one-inch cubes. For comparison, on the left is the pork shoulder, and on the right is the loin. I suggest trimming more of the fat than this because it cooks quickly and the fat won’t render off, so it was a little chewy.
Toss the pork with the salt to season. (The original recipe said to let this sit for 12 hours, but I didn’t do that.)
Combine the remaining ingredients and whisk to make the marinade.
Mix the pork and the marinade in a glass or ceramic bowl.
Place in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to four days.
On cooking day, heat about a tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet until shimmering. Pour off the marinade and cook the pork in small batches. Don’t crowd the pan or the pork will essentially boil, and won’t brown well.
Stir frequently, until nicely browned on all sides and fully cooked. Optional: for a little color, top with chopped parsley.
Serve with potatoes, rice, bolo de caco (pictured) or crusty bread. And wine, of course. Use either the same wine you used for the marinade or, to complement the garlic, serve with a nice red. I tried both and found them equally good. That’s just the kind of sacrifice I’m willing to make for my readers.